Dec 15 2005

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Tookie vs The Terminator


By 9:15 pm on the night of Stanley Tookie Williams execution, I could no longer allow myself to watch or listen to the insipid and insidious debates over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to grant clemency and stop the execution, or to let Stanley Tookie Williams die. The decision was predetermined twenty four years before, when four brutal murders were committed. Tookie Williams was the founder of Los Angeles’s most notorious street gang. Could he have possibly been innocent of these murders, maybe; but what difference did it make to the guilt or innocence of one of the most feared men in the country? Would Jesse James or Billy the Kid have been acquitted for a murder they didn’t commit, with the jury fully aware of their notorious reputations? It is highly doubtful.

If we consider the worth of a man or woman’s life upon their conviction of a brutal crime, how are their virtues weighed? Remove the weight of anger and hatred and desire for revenge and consider only clinical justice. Can a judge or jury be clinically objective once they are made aware of all facts, and have listened to all arguments by the defense and prosecution? I do not know. But let us assume that it can be done, and was done in the Tookie Williams trial. The ultimate verdict was the death sentence. He survived twenty four more years in prison, this was clemency by the judicial system, granted to him despite his later execution. Many convicted criminals have faced their executioners in far shorter time.

I believe Tookie Williams may have purged his soul before he was executed. He refused his last meal and any spiritual council in his last hours. He was prepared for the final decision and might have even welcomed it; as the final escape from his 24 year isolation on death row. Would clemency to life in prison have made any difference to him by then? He had done all he could do to try and redeem himself, try to show his rehabilitation; but to the actor now Governor, who created the film roles of Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator, the word rehabilitation isn’t pronounceable, much less a comprehensible concept. Could the families of the murder victims accept that the rehabilitation and lifelong imprisonment of a cold blooded killer, was worth the lives of their murdered family members?

Stanley Tookie William’s ultimate guilt or innocence will always remain a question for any who remember his case. Innocence or guilt is often confused and rationalized and the story of Tookie Williams will be forgotten within the next six months. His memory will be associated with the gang he co founded and guilt will be associated with his final reputation. As for the state of California and it’s prison system Stanley Tookie Williams has become a statistic, dehumanized and deleted from the prison population, no longer a burden to society. Those who mourn now for Tookie Williams do not mourn the man, few of them ever knew. They mourn the ideal that he represented to them. He may have inspired some with his words and attempted rehabilitation, but Death is final for both Tookie Williams and his victims. Who mourns for the victims? If the spirits of the slain are satisfied a universal justice has been served.

The biblical story of Christ on the Cross states that in his final hour he blessed the convicted criminal who was crucified next to him. Though Christ had the power to save himself and the man next to him , he did not. Perhaps God embraced the criminal as his soul passed on. Perhaps Christ was with him and gave him hope and foreknowledge of the afterlife. Perhaps as Tookie Williams prepared himself for his death he calmly accepted his fate as he accepted God. We will never know, but we can believe that all death is destined and so is life after death.

The argument over the Death Penalty pro and con, I have discussed often on my radio program. My co-host Leila is a devout opponent to the death penalty where as I am ambivalent about it’s use. I can wholeheartedly support the death penalty for heinous crimes, in which the offender either truthfully confesses to the crime or is found guilty on all counts with unquestionable proof and positive DNA results. The most critical of all areas argued in this debate is the credibility and availability of such concrete evidence. My sole defense of the death penalty is related to this area. If all proof of the intent and commitment of the diabolical crime is rightfully admitted by a competent defense, and seen and understood by an untampered and unprejudiced judge and jury, then a sentence of death by the jury’s decision should be carried out. In Stanley Tookie Williams case none of this solid evidence was admitted at his trial. No DNA, No eye witnesses, nothing but circumstantial evidence and the testimony of an inmate informant. There may have been more evidence that convicted Tookie Williams; however I am citing all that has been released to the public. Mr. Williams retained his plea of innocence to the crimes up to the moment of his death. Was justice served in his case? I do not know. All the evidence submitted in his defense during subsequent appeals could not overturn his original conviction or commute his sentence to life in prison.

Statements by the prosecution stated that this case was solid and Mr. Williams’s guilt of the brutal murders of four innocent victims was proven beyond doubt to judges and juries and reviewed many times over 24 years, resulting in the same outcome. If I or anyone were a juror or judge in this case we may have been obliged to vote the same way. One extenuating circumstance that would obviously cloud the Stanley Tookie Williams trial would be his notorious reputation as the founder of a ruthless street gang. What was his vision and intent when he formed his gang? Were murderous and brutal methods encouraged and employed by the gang members; and was the mimicking of their leaders and following their examples encouraged? Was the gang formed for self defense against the violence of other gangs; or was it founded for the same reason most street gangs are founded for, the promotion of criminal and violent behavior?

If Tookie Williams spent his years on Death Row writing against gang life and gang activity is considered by his supporters to be proof of his rehabilitation; then obviously is initial intentions when he founded his gang, were based on less than noble ideals; that spawned the creation of a well entrenched violent street gang. I believe the system worked properly in the case of Stanley Tookie Williams, whether justice was truly served and he was innocent, as he claimed to his death will always remain a question. In this case the accused was convicted of four horrific murders; and he accepted his own execution stoically. He must have understood that his case, having been processed exhaustively through the U.S judicial system for 24 years, and he was still found guilty, his crimes far outweighed any further reason for tolerance toward him by the people of California. They could no longer support or justify, any further reason for Stanley Tookie Williams existence. The truth of his guilt or innocence will remain a topic of debate. However to most of the American people this case will be forgotten. Tookie Williams has become a prison statistic, dehumanized to a deleted prison number and an empty, San Quentin Death Row cell; soon to be filled by another occupant.

L.A. Steel

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